Converting Mobilehome Parks To High Density Residential Subdivisions Seen As Mann’s Latest Yucaipa Pro-Development Ploy

The recent focus by Yucaipa municipal officials on revamping the city’s standards and protocols relating to the conversion of the city’s existing mobilehome parks into different land uses is being interpreted in many quarters of the city as part of City Manager Chris Mann’s strategy to facilitate development in the city at a pace than has historically been the case.
In particular, among residents of the city’s 41 mobilehome parks, there is concern that City Hall is clearing the way for the development industry to, in essence, shutter a significant number of the city’s trailer parks and transform those properties into residential subdivisions.
In 2016, city officials adjusted the Yucaipa General Plan and its specified policy with regard to maintaining existing mobile home parks or converting them to some other use, while putting in place a third mobilehome park overlay district. Concomitantly, the city cataloged seven of the city’s threadbare mobile home parks as antiquated, thereby offering to facilitate the reuse of the properties for other purposes.
At the Yucaipa Planning Commission meeting on September 6, the commission took up an item “proposing amendments to streamline the review process initially developed as part of Ordinance 344 [passed by the city council in 2016]… establishing mobilehome park conversion standards to comply with the city’s housing element.” A housing element is a plan adopted by a municipality that includes the goals, policies and programs that guide decision-making with regard to housing.
That streamlining would take place, a city staff report said, by the city’s adoption of another ordinance, Ordinance 429, which would supersede elements of Ordinance 344. The planning commission was being asked to make a recommendation to the city council that it approve Ordinance 429.
Ordinance No. 344 established a maximum residential density of 16 dwelling units per acre could be permitted as a part of a conversion application and expanded through what is termed a development opportunity reserve request, pursuant to city council approval.
Buried in the language pertaining to the item considered by the planning commission on September 6 was that Ordinance 429 would amend the city’s development code to allow “24 dwelling units per acre through a development opportunity reserve as a ‘by-right’ residential base density within the Mobilehome Park 3 Overlay. Instead of a conditional use permit application which requires discretionary review by the planning commission, a land use compliance review with architectural review would become the pertinent planning entitlement for the conversion process and could be approved administratively by city staff.”
In other words, city staff would be given full “ministerial” authority to approve replacement projects on any property where mobilehome parks are now located, and would be able to do so without review/approval by the planning commission or the city council.
Some Yucaipans, primarily ones who believe that City Manager Chris Mann has already commandeered too much unbridled control over the 27.8-square mile, 55,495-population city, see the proposed new ordinance as a ploy to provide Mann with even more authority.
Mann’s advent as Yucaipa’s top administrator created as much or more controversy than anything that had occurred in the city’s 34-year history. His predecessor as City Manager, Ray Casey, was forced into resigning on January 9, just prior to the city council holding a vote in a closed session on whether to terminate him. That came just two-and-a-half months after a slightly differently-composed city council had voted unanimously to extend Casey’s contract as city manager through to the end of June 2024. It was ultimately revealed that Mayor Justin Beaver and Councilman Bobby Duncan, who had voted in October 2022 to extend Casey’s contract, had joined with Councilman Matthew Garner, who had been elected to the council in November 2022, to pressure Casey into tendering his resignation in lieu of being fired. The appointed Mann, who at that time was serving as the city manager in Canyon Lake, to replace Casey. The council, taken aback by City Attorney David Snow’s disdainful reaction to the abrupt move to jettison Casey, fired him and brought in Mann’s choice to replace Snow, Steven Graham, who was the city attorney in Canyon Lake. The circumstances under which the events of January 9 occurred, in which Graham was already in place to serve as city attorney when the council into its closed session to accept Casey’s resignation and terminate Snow and Mann was present on the civic center premises, led many to conclude that a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open public meeting law had occurred. The Brown Act prohibits prior discussion among a quorum of the elected or appointed members of a governmental board with regard to action to be taken or voted upon by that panel in its official capacity.
In addition to having been the city manager of Canyon Lake and now the city manager of Yucaipa, Mann was formerly the mayor of Westlake Village and an active partner in numerous development projects in California, Nevada and Arizona. He is also the principal in Mann Communications, which according to the company’s own website functions in the main as a representative of developers and development interests seeking to move building proposals past the planning process and get them approved. Mann Communications specializes in, according to the firm’s website, making sure that “elected officials are… provided the political cover they need in order to support good projects” to “provide our clients with a wealth of knowledge and experience and a winning approach to land use entitlement. Mann Communications Principal Chris Mann has been an active partner in numerous development projects in California, Nevada and Arizona. Having worked both as an elected official and as a developer, he uniquely understands the development process from both the public and private perspectives. Understanding the practices and motivations of each side better than most, he is able to provide tremendous value to the entire development process, making Mann Communications an invaluable member of any project team.”
Highly troubling to many Yucaipa residents was that Mann, even as he was working as the city manager of Canyon Lake and then Yucaipa, overseeing the regulatory processes of those cities’ land use decision-making and planning functions, he was simultaneously working for and accepting money from developmental interests, the very entities he was supposed to be regulating. Word to the effect that Beaver, Duncan and Garner were in the pocket of the development industry and that they were on the take spread throughout Yucaipa. By April 24, a core group of Yucaipa residents – 94 of them – who were caught flatfooted in January when Casey’s resignation materialized as a fait accompli, had coordinated a response. On that day, three of their representatives, one each from District 1, District 3 and District 4 came to Yucaipa City Hall with documentation signaling their intent to circulate petitions to recall Garner, Duncan and Beaver from office.
Initially rocked back on his heels by the show of intense hostility toward the three members of the council who had sponsored his hiring as city manager, Mann rallied and regrouped. In March, he had persuaded the woman he had promoted into the city clerk’s position in Canyon Lake, Ana Sauseda, to come to work in Yuciapa as both city clerk and general services director by offering her a $60,000 per year increase in salary, boosting the $103,807 before benefits she was making as city clerk in Canyon Lake to an annual salary of $163,858.63 before benefits in Yucaipa.
Mann easily persuaded Sauseda, who as city clerk was also Yucaipa’s chief elections official, to file a writ of mandate against the recall proponents, alleging their were inaccuracies and falsehoods in their stated grounds for pursuing the recall of Garner, Duncan and Beaver. In short order the recall proponents became bogged down in the ramifications of responding to and contesting the legal action Sauseda had filed against them and consequently failed to gather by the August 16 deadline the signatures of 1,825 registered voters in District 1 to qualify the recall election against Garner, the 1,479 signatures of registered voters in District 3 to qualify the recall election against Duncan and the 1,623 signatures of registered voters in District 4 needed to qualify the recall election against Beaver. The three recall efforts thus failed.
The belief among many Yucaipa residents is that Mann has now been emboldened.
Yucaipa with its 4,270 mobilehome spaces, more than 94 percent of which are occupied, has the largest number of mobilehome residents in San Bernardino County per capita. Many do not consider it to be a misreading of the city’s recent focus on revamping its standards and protocols relating to the conversion of mobilehome parks into alternate land uses to conclude City Hall is clearing the way for the development industry to, in essence, shutter some or even most of the city’s trailer parks and transform those properties into high-density residential neighborhoods. A majority of those living in mobilehomes in Yucaipa are elderly and live on fixed incomes. The Sentinel was unable to find even one mobilehome resident who was pleased with the concept of shuttering mobilehome parks in favor of redeveloping the land into apartments.
A question at the moment is whether Yucaipa residents who live in single family homes will rally to the assistance of those living in mobilehome parks who are likely to see the ground upon which their dwellings are located being sold out from underneath them. An issue at play is what the mobilehomes are to be replaced with. There is a difference between a residential subdivision where there are 16 units to the acre and where there are ten units to the acre and where there are six units to the acre and where there are half-acre minimum lots.
As one Yucaipa resident, one who lives in a large home on a large lot, put it, “The city manager and council majority have lost the trust and confidence of many citizens. Why is this issue with regard to mobilehomes coming to the forefront now? Who is behind it? Who stands to benefit financially? A vast number of longtime citizens are up in arms over the current densification being pushed all over the city. We are just now becoming aware of this latest agenda and wondering what the rush is. Chris Mann is a developer’s dream. It’s one thing to push for decrepit mobile home parks be replaced with better living conditions and improving the overall appearance in the city of Yucaipa, but why the allowance of high density development? It seems that the overall general plan of rural Yucaipa is under attack.
The Sentinel, in a future edition, will seek to obtain from Mann his viewpoint and justification of the policies he is pursuing in Yucaipa.

Leave a Reply